Xtina's "Can't Hold Us Down" Is A Feminist Anthem

by Tracy Dye

The time has come once again to talk about how amazing Christina Aguilera is — otherwise known as the best time ever. Duh. Ever since Aguilera's rise to fame in the late '90s, many of us have happily listed the singer as one of our top idols. And why not? Not only does Aguilera have some of the most powerful pipes in the music industry, she's always made sure to utilize her talent in a way that perpetuates feminism and empowerment, along with self-love. These themes truly became a staple of Aguilera's music when she released her album, Stripped, in 2002. Yes, everybody seemed more pressed to talk about those infamous chaps Aguilera wore in the video for the album's first single, "Dirrty" (and what's wrong with chaps?) initially, but with the release of songs like "Beautiful" and "The Voice Within" fans and critics alike couldn't deny the powerful feminism of this quintessential "girl power" album.

One of the most empowering tracks — and one of my all-time favorites — from Stripped would have to be "Can't Hold Us Down". From the beginning of Aguilera's international success, many would balk at her assertiveness and she became the subject of some ridiculously sexist comments. "Can't Hold Us Down" showcased Aguilera as someone who was completely undaunted by the scrutiny, refusing the eschew her ideals and ingenuity for people that would prefer she just "sat and smiled." Let's take a nostalgic look back at the amazing track and break down all the wondrous components of "Can't Hold Us Down".

Biting Back At Anyone Who Feels Women Should Be Silent

From the beginning of this song, Aguilera starts off strong. I mean, how else would you expect here to start? Anyway, the opening lyrics to the track are:

"So what am I not supposed to have an opinion / Should I be quiet just because I'm a woman / Call me a b***h cos I speak what's on my mind / I guess it's easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled."

Bam! Aguilera bites back against an archaic double standard of women being expected to stay mum while men can be allowed to say basically anything without fear of reproach.

Encouraging Assertiveness & Showcasing The Benefits

Most of us have — unfortunately — had at least of few run-ins with people who have behaved disrespectfully toward us, or attempted to...well..."hold us down". Aguilera's line about how "suddenly big talker don't know how to act" encourages self-confidence and the power of standing up for yourself.

The Song Puts Slander In Its Place

There's never a good reason to slander someone or spread false rumors. Rather, why even start rumors at all? Aguilera deftly hones in on this point with the lyric, "It's sad you only get your fame through controversy, but now it's time for me to come and give you more to say." OWNED.

Emphasizes The Importance Of Respect & Being Respected

The song has an ongoing theme of respect and being respected, with lines like, "This is for my girls all around the world, who've come across a man who don't respect your worth."

References The Pervasiveness Of Sexism Throughout History

Aguilera invites listeners to "look back at history" and see how things like promiscuity have been glorified when men do it, while women have been unjustly shamed. As always, Aguilera takes said stereotypes and turns them on their head.

Aguilera Features Lil' Kim As An Extra Dose Of Girl Power

Right at the beginning of Aguilera's ascent on the music charts, people unjustifiably pitted her against fellow pop crooner, Britney Spears. Spears wasn't the only female star that Aguilera was rumored to have a rivalry with, but all those rumors turned out to be false. Rather than become embittered with competition and perpetuate ridiculous stereotypes of women not being able to get along, Aguilera has consistently bolstered other female singers and has frequently paired up with other female artists. She chose Lil' Kim for "Can't Hold Us Down" and the results were fierce.

References Unfair Treatment Of Women In The Workforce

Despite all the progress that has been made for women in the workforce, there is still much to be done, as women continue to make less than men overall, and can be treated unjustly. During her part in "Can't Hold Us Down", Lil' Kim references her own struggles as an independent woman in the industry with the line, "Cats take my ideas and put their name on it."

Encourages Perseverance & Belief In Yourself

Other lines like, "I've got to keep on movin'" and "Letting them know we're gonna stand our ground" encourage perseverance and the ability to believe in yourself.

The Ultimate Burn

During the bridge, Aguilera sings:

"But you're just a little boy / Think you're so cute, so coy / You must talk so big / To make up for smaller things / So you're just a little boy / All you do is annoy / You must talk so big / To make up for smaller things."

BURN! Well done, Aguilera. Well done.

Images: Screengrab/Vevo; Giphy (9)